Manatee News

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Michele Manos and Kew-Forest 2nd Graders

A Teacher Motivates Her Students With Manatees

Teacher Michelle Manos and students work on their manatee murals.
Kew-Forest School teacher Michele Manos, hard at work with her students on their manatee murals. (Photo by Deirdre Weatherston, 5th Grade Teacher)
By Janice Nearing,
Director of Public Relations,
Save the Manatee Club

New York elementary school teacher Michele Manos knows how one particular marine mammal – sweet-faced, adorably whiskered, portly and precious – can be effective in the learning process. It seems that manatees, so irresistibly fun and charming, make an ideal teacher’s aide.

Back in 1993, Manos, who also has a home in Tarpon Springs, Florida, and enjoys viewing manatees in the bayou while there, decided to include them in her daily lessons at Kew-Forest School, up north in Forest Hills, New York. The result of combining manatees with the concepts of math, reading, writing, and art energized her 2nd graders.

It was also the same year Manos decided to adopt two different manatees for each of her classes, in support of the Club’s manatee conservation efforts, and she has followed this tradition every year since then.

“The first year we adopted, something very memorable occurred,” said Manos. “I told the class that it would take awhile before we received the adoption papers to make everything official. One of my students raised his hand and asked when and where we could go to pick up our manatees. It was then that I realized that one must never assume that all bases have been covered. I proceeded to explain that it was not possible to physically possess a creature as large as a manatee. Every year since, I make sure that I explain this to my class as part of my lesson.”

The 2012 book features poetry and illustrations created by the Kew-Forest 2nd grade students. It was presented to parents and friends on Manatee Day at the school. (Courtesy Michele Manos.)
Manos, who has been teaching second grade for 47 years, believes that including endangered manatees and other animals in the curriculum is a way to invigorate her young students, get them socially engaged, and teach them to respect animals and care about nature.

“My efforts to incorporate manatees and their survival into my curriculum starts with educating youngsters from the very beginning that “all life is precious,” she explained. “Besides, how terrible it would be never to see a manatee again outside of a book or movie. Their ecological, scientific, historical, aesthetic, and recreational value is immeasurable. I believe that only by educating people about the value of compassion and action, can we protect these gentle giants.”

Toward the end of every school year, Manos works with her 2nd graders to compile a book of manatee poems which is then presented on “Manatee Day” to a school audience of parents and friends, along with manatee cookies baked by the students. It is a special day enjoyed by all.

A positive influence on so many lives throughout the years, Michele Manos is an inspiring educator and does honor to the title of “teacher.” Save the Manatee Club is extremely grateful for such a wonderful, caring advocate, teacher, and friend.

Michele Manos and class
Kew-Forest School 2nd graders show off t-shirts featuring their individual manatee creation. (Photo courtesy Michele Manos.)

Do Your Thing Floyd
Adopted by class we knew.
That was the right thing to do.
We recognize you by the injury to your tail and side.
Safety from danger we want to provide.
Playful like Philip, your brother,
You are like no other.
When photographers appear, you nudge in
To be first in the shot.
Shy and afraid you are not.
Loved by the lady manatees are you,
These are just to name a few.
--By Shiza Ghanchi

From Mrs. Manos' Second Grade Class
2012 Manatee Poems

Over the years, Mrs. Manos and her Kew-Forest 2nd Graders have been adoptive parents of 20 manatees in Save the Manatee Club's Adopt-A-Manatee program! Below are their current adoptees:

BAMA made history in September 2009 when she became the first manatee ever captured and tagged in Alabama waters by Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Manatee Sighting Network. Now a local attraction in Mobile Bay in the spring and summer, Bama has migrated from Alabama to Crystal River, Florida, each winter.

ZEWIE was always sighted in Crystal River, Florida, until he was seen in Alabama’s Mobile-Tenesaw Delta in June of 2009. A gregarious and inquisitive individual, Zewie became the fourth manatee captured and tagged by Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

FLOYD was born in the summer of 1978 and has spent every winter at Blue Spring State Park, located in Orange City, Florida, since birth. He is known as a "ham," and he is often seen in films and magazines.

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